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    Making Sense of the Economic Consequences of the Russia-Ukraine War

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    How Could the US Bring Peace to Ukraine?

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    Cold Warriors Stoke Another War in Ukraine

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    Appeal to the UN to Protect Hazaras in Afghanistan

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    The Unholy Alliance Between the US Security Apparatus and Big Tech

    The Fair Observer website uses digital cookies so it can collect statistics on how many visitors come to the site, what content is viewed and for how long, and the general location of the computer network of the visitor. These statistics are collected and processed using the Google Analytics service. Fair Observer uses these aggregate statistics from website visits to help improve the content of the website and to provide regular reports to our current and future donors and funding organizations. The type of digital cookie information collected during your visit and any derived data cannot be used or combined with other information to personally identify you. Fair Observer does not use personal data collected from its website for advertising purposes or to market to you.As a convenience to you, Fair Observer provides buttons that link to popular social media sites, called social sharing buttons, to help you share Fair Observer content and your comments and opinions about it on these social media sites. These social sharing buttons are provided by and are part of these social media sites. They may collect and use personal data as described in their respective policies. Fair Observer does not receive personal data from your use of these social sharing buttons. It is not necessary that you use these buttons to read Fair Observer content or to share on social media. More

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    Making Sense of the Indian Position on the Russia-Ukraine War

    Fair Observer’s new feature FO° Insights makes sense of issues in the news. Last week, the former Agence France-Presse chief editor Florence Biedermann shared her views on the French presidential elections. The week before, former BBC Africa editor Martin Plaut explained the Tigray War in Ethiopia.

    This week, our founder, CEO and editor-in-chief explores why India is not lining up against Russia despite American pressure. He describes how historic ties, military equipment, geopolitical imperatives and a trust deficit between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Democrats lie behind India’s foreign policy decision.

    Watch or read Atul Singh make sense of it all.

    [embedded content]

    Atul Singh on India’s Position on the Russia-Ukraine War

    In this episode, we have our editor-in-chief explain the reasons behind India’s position in this conflict.

    Why won’t India denounce Russia? 

    Atul Singh: History, military equipment and the China factor explain India’s reticence on Russia. 

    History: Even before India became independent, it was inclined to socialism. Post-independence, India became a de facto Cold War ally. It was of course non-aligned but we know where India stood. 

    MIlitary Equipment: Most of India’s military equipment comes from Russia and Russian equipment is cheaper. It can be modified as India wishes unlike western equipment, which is more advanced and more reliable but also more expensive. 

    China Factor: India has a long  and disputed border with China. Given the fact that India relies on Russian kit, if Russia was to turn against India, then the country would face catastrophic defeat.

    How does India rely on Russia? 

    Atul Singh: India relies on Russia for defense, energy and geopolitical reasons.  

    On defense, given the fact that an estimated 70% of Indian military kit is Russian, India needs spare parts — critical particularly in times of war. When it comes to new kit, Russia allows India to modify it the way India wants and that is a big advantage. Also, Russia allows the transfer of technology, which the US, other countries in Europe, including France, are reluctant to allow. 

    For energy, the option of cheap or cut-price oil allows India greater leverage in its negotiations with its Middle Eastern energy suppliers. 

    And when it comes to geopolitical needs, Russia has backed India on Kashmir consistently over many decades and India is unsure about Western backing on Kashmir. 

    Why is India distrustful of the US? 

    Atul Singh: Well, part of it is a legacy of the Cold War. India was very much on the Soviet side, even if it was a soft Soviet ally.  

    Then in 1971, the US backed a military dictatorship in Pakistan whilst India was trying to liberate Bangladesh. Remember, Pakistan was running a genocidal regime in Bangladesh and using rape as a weapon of war. India has not forgotten that. 

    In the 1980s, the US funded a jihad in Afghanistan. Some of that money was used to fuel insurgency in India and, 1989 onwards, in Kashmir, many of these jihadis created mayhem. 

    Recently the withdrawal from Afghanistan has upset India. India spent an arm and a leg supporting the US-backed administration in Kabul and India feels betrayed.  

    There’s also that tiny little matter of political discord. India believes it is given no credit for sending 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan, even though the US pulled out of the country. Recently, the US raised issues of human rights in India, which did not go down well.

    This is where the left-leaning Democrat government lacks the trust of the right-leaning BJP. There’s a huge trust deficit with the BJP government, which believes that the Democrats are plotting an orange revolution to unseat them just as they did in Ukraine. 

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    What is the China Factor? 

    Atul Singh: India and China share over 3,000 kilometers of border. And this border is not defined. There was a war in 1962 and there was a clash in 2020. 

    Should China launch a full-scale invasion and should Russia back China even if covertly, India would face catastrophic defeat. So, India wants Russia to play the role of an honest broker. 

    And good ties with Russia are an insurance against defeat vis à vis China. 

    What is India’s best case scenario? 

    Atul Singh: India’s best case scenario is a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine and the end of sanctions. Remember, India imports military kit both from Ukraine and Russia, so this war is causing havoc with its supplies. 

    Also remember India gets its investment from the US. India exports to the US, especially IT services and India sends students by the thousands to the US. India is deeply integrated into the US economic system.

    Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

    This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. More

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    Jacob Zuma Threatens to Bring South Africa to its Knees If He Is Jailed

    The former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is the glowering figure who looms large over the country’s future. The 80-year-old is determined that never again will he suffer the ignominy of being jailed — despite being charged with hundreds of counts of corruption in a case that has dragged on for nearly 17 years. Zuma has pleaded not guilty to corruption, money laundering and racketeering in a 1990s $2 billion arms deal that he promoted.

    To head off any chance of being imprisoned, he has deployed the so-called “Stalingrad defense.” This is a term for a legal strategy of stalling proceedings based on technicalities. Zuma’s lawyers are fighting every attempt to put him before a judge on the basis of arcane technicalities. Finally, this strategy is wearing thin and Zuma’s supporters are now resorting to alternative tactics.

    Past Precedent

    This is not the first time that Zuma faces time in prison. Last year, the Constitutional Court of South Africa found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to jail for 15 months. Zuma’s supporters took to the streets in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. They blocked roads, assaulted people, and looted and burned supermarkets.

    Embed from Getty Images

    When Zuma’s legal team were in court on April 11,  they reminded the court of what had happened. They warned the judge that the riots that ensued after his jail sentence last year resulted in the deaths of more than 350 people. Zuma’s lawyers claimed that the riots “were partly motivated or sparked, to whatever extent, by a sense of public outrage at perceived injustice and special treatment of Mr Zuma.” They were making an obvious threat.

    It is important to put Zuma’s July 2021 riots in context. The country’s most notorious mass killing remains the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960. This occurred during the era of apartheid. The massacre cost 69 lives as the police fired into a crowd. The Zuma riots cost many more lives than the Sharpeville massacre.

    To contain these riots, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had to deploy 25,000 troops. He admitted that he had no prior warning from his intelligence services of the scale of the unrest. This is unsurprising. Zuma was an intelligence agent for the African National Congress (ANC) and has strong links with South Africa’s security services. As the South African media have reported: “Former senior security agency and ANC members aligned with Jacob Zuma have allegedly instigated the unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Citing sources in the intelligence community…these former agency members used intelligence networks to spark the riots.”

    The government made promises to bring those who instigated the Zuma riots to justice.  Duduzile Zuma-Sambundla, Zuma’s daughter, was one of those accused of stoking the riots. She and none of the major figures allegedly behind the Zuma riots have been held accountable. Of the 3,000 suspects arrested, all of them have been small-fry.  

    Constitutional Challenge And Risk of Becoming a Failed State

    Like a latter-day Samson, the former president is threatening to bring down the South African constitutional order around him. Those close to Zuma have threatened both the judges and the constitutional order itself. The South African constitution, shaped under Nelson Mandela is today questioned by factions of the ANC who want to make the judiciary and the constitution subservient to the political establishment.

    Many ANC leaders, keen to stave off allegations of wrongdoing, have muttered darkly about the constitution for years. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala recently criticized the courts, saying “It is time we should debate whether the country does not need parliamentary democracy where laws enacted by Parliament should be above all and not reviewed by another organ…” Ironically, Zikalala is calling for a return to parliamentary supremacy — the hallmark of the apartheid years.

    Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

    There is a real cost to such maneuvers by ANC politicians. In its December conference,the party will elect a new leadership. If some ANC members have their way, they could even remove Ramaphosa, although this seems unlikely as of now. Nevertheless, the ANC’s branches and its provincial structures are experiencing a bitter battle between the pro- and anti-Zuma factions. These factions are fighting for the support of the ANC’s 1.5 million members in meetings across the country, some of which are turning violent.

    While the ANC is locked in internal battles, there are warnings that South Africa might be turning into a failed state. The government has failed to provide many essential public services already. The railways have been vandalized and looted so severely that no trains have run in the Eastern Cape since January 7. Critical coal and iron ore exports are grinding to a halt because of cable theft  that has gone unchecked for years because of South Africa’s systemic corruption.  As per Bloomberg, “more than $2 billion in potential coal, iron ore and chrome exports were lost” in 2021.

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    The failure of the electricity supply system is so chronic that it is hardly remarked upon. In the Cape, the opposition Democratic Alliance has plans to dump the state electricity provider — Eskom — and establish its own power supply.

    In a September 2020 report, Eunomix warned that “bar a meaningful change of trajectory, South Africa will be a failed state by 2030.” The remarks were echoed in March this year by the treasury director general Dondo Mogajane. He took the view that, if South Africa continued on its present path, it could indeed become a ‘failed state’ with “no confidence in the government, anarchy and absolutely no control in society.”

    In April, Ramaphosa was forced torespond to Mogajane. The president adamantly declared that South Africa was “not a failed state yet and we will not get there.” Ramaphosa claimed that his government was taking steps to rebuild South Africa’s capacity and fight corruption. This claim remains an admirable but unfulfilled ambition.

    Zuma has not been brought to court and his associates are locked in battle with Ramaphosa’s supporters for control of the ANC and the country. Meanwhile, growth rates slide, unemployment rockets and poverty remains endemic. Even as South Africa is on the slide, the world’s attention is elsewhere. This is a tragedy. Africa could lose one of its few genuine democracies and see the collapse of its largest economy.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. More

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    Radicalization and the Role of Video Games

    The audience for video games is massive. According to Nielsen, 82% of global consumers either played video games or watched content related to them in 2020 — a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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    In 2019, the anti-hate organization ADL published survey data of US gamers, revealing that 23% of respondents had been exposed to white supremacist ideology in online games. Given recent surges in right-wing extremism and violence, including concerning trends in youth radicalization, understanding the extent to which this hugely popular medium offers a potential vector for radicalization is important.

    Gaming and Right-Wing Extremism

    There is a growing corpus of literature exploring the intersection between gaming and right-wing extremism. This includes work that focuses on the cultural overlap between online extremism and gaming communities; potential vulnerabilities that might mean gamers are more susceptible to radicalization; the gamification of extremist activity; and discussion of the “gamergate” controversy that saw a number of gamers involved in coordinated online trolling help drive online extremism.

    However, there is a limited body of work exploring the use of gaming platforms for recruitment by extremists, with much of the content exploring this phenomenon being largely anecdotal, such as a report in November 2020 by Sky News on the radicalization of a 14-year-old boy in the United Kingdom which suggested that the boy had been shown “extreme neo-Nazi video games” by his older brother.

    Embed from Getty Images

    Understanding whether there are concerted radicalization efforts that seek to leverage online gaming to reach new audiences has implications for regulatory discussions, interventions and prevention efforts.

    Our Findings

    To help fill this dearth in knowledge, the digital analysis unit at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) engaged in a piece of scoping research across four platforms associated with online gaming. This included two live-streaming services — Twitch and DLive, which both host individuals who broadcast online gaming to digital audiences, and which have both been used to stream extremist activity.

    Additionally, we explored Steam, the PC game digital distribution service that also provides a platform for gamers to build community groups, and Discord, a chat application originally designed for gamers that has been notably used by right-wing extremists.

    To better understand the potential for overlap between extremism and gaming, we used digital ethnography to scope these platforms, searching for users and communities promoting extremist content. In total, we identified 45 public groups associated with the extreme right on Steam, 24 extreme right chat servers on Discord, 100 extreme right channels on DLive and 91 channels on Twitch.

    These communities and individuals commonly promoted racist, exclusionary and supremacist material associated with the extreme right, including the sharing of material from proscribed terrorist organizations on Discord.

    We then qualitatively analyzed the content shared by these extremist channels and publicly accessible discussion threads to explore the extent that gaming was being used to radicalize or recruit individuals.

    Here we identified several ways in which extremists use gaming. In some instances, extremists would use politically aligned games, such as “Feminazi: The Triggering” as a means to signify their ideology to their peers. Additionally, we found evidence that extremists used historical strategy games to role-play extremist fantasies, such as winning the Second World War for Nazi Germany or killing Muslims in the Crusades. However, although we found ample evidence that extremists are using gaming platforms, we found limited evidence to suggest they are using them to radicalize or recruit new members.

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    Instead, extremists primarily seemed to use gaming as a means of building bonds and community with their peers, as well as more broadly to blow off steam. Whilst there has been a focus in preexisting literature on extremist-created games, we found that a majority of extremist gamers preferred popular mainstream titles such as “Call of Duty” or “Counter-Strike.” Additionally, although anecdotal evidence suggests that young people are being groomed over online games, we didn’t find content that corroborated this.

    Future Research

    Although there were gaps in our methodology — in particular, we didn’t seek to play online games with extremists — these preliminary findings suggest that gamers seem to primarily use gaming in the same way that non-extremists do: as a hobby and past time. These findings have implications for policy responses to online radicalization as well as for future research. In particular, they highlight how extremist users have been able to find a home on gaming platforms online.

    Our project was designed as scoping research to pick up on key trends and didn’t attempt to gauge the scale and reach of these communities, but it is important that future digital research tracks the size of extremist communities so that proportional policy responses can be proposed.

    *[Fair Observer is a media partner of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right.]

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. More